During the past offseason, NFL defensive back Ryan Clark, who had just completed his last year as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, talked about how some NFL players, including certain of his Steelers teammates, smoked marijuana to deal with stress and manage pain from their football injuries....
Despite the optimistic prognostications by some supporters that shiny, new charter schools would serve as nimble, bottom-line-minded alternatives to sclerotic old public schools, charters turned out to be something less than the salvation of American education. They’ve been plagued by high teacher turnover, low academic achievement, a lack of transparency and a noteworthy number of school officials being hauled into courtrooms on corruption charges.
And a report released this week by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania found another reason to look at charters with a wary eye: they are promoting de facto patterns of school segregation.
Among the reasons charter schools are becoming racially and ethnically homogenous, according to the study, are not only the choices of parents on whether to send children to them, but also the availability of transportation and subsidized lunches.
Erica Frankenburg, a researcher at Penn State University, told Pittsburgh radio station WESA-FM “in the residential market, we know that there are a number of different factors beyond just preference that in fact stratify who’s living where, and actually we see some of these similar mechanisms when we look at the pattern of school choice.”
The report also noted charter schools siphon scarce dollars from the budgets of public school districts because they are mandated to pay tuition to a charter if a student who hails from their district enrolls, and “the available data suggest that students moving from a traditional public school district to a charter generally move to a school with lower academic performance than the original district.”
That being the case, it mystifies us why charter schools continue to draw such vehement support from across the political spectrum. A better path to strengthening our educational system would be giving our under-financed public schools more resources and support.
When the political obituaries are written about Gov. Tom Corbett’s tenure – and, barring a Trumanesque turnaround, the state’s political scribes are refilling their inkwells for that task – at least a couple of paragraphs will be devoted to his bungled efforts to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery.
The plan to have Britain’s Camelot Global Services operate the lottery drained Corbett’s political capital, found little support among legislators and was met with significant skepticism by the public. Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s arguments it would not have passed constitutional muster were, more or less, lottery privatization’s coup de grace.
The whole episode was a setback for Corbett. But, in the long term, the preliminary evidence suggests the Pennsylvania Lottery will do just fine being operated nearer to the Steelers’ Big Ben and not the Big Ben that towers over the River Thames.
In July, it was announced the lottery’s ticket sales hit a record in the year that stretched from July 1, 2013 to June 30, reaching $3.8 billion. That marked a $100 million increase over the previous record-setter, which was the year before. If sales remain at this pace, and without taking inflation into consideration, the Lottery will take in $76 billion over the next 20 years, comfortably exceeding the $34 billion in profits Camelot Global Services promised.
And that could happen without the dubious proposition of pushing the lottery into bars and restaurants, which was one of the selling points of the privatization plan. Since we’re getting to the juncture where there’s virtually a casino at every crossroads, it’s questionable whether Pennsylvanians would have had much more change left in their wallets that they could have frittered away on gambling.
Moreover, last week Illinois bowed out of a 10-year deal with a private firm that was managing its lottery a full seven years ahead of schedule. Turns out the increased revenues the state was promised failed to materialize.
Anyone who frequently plays the lottery knows the chances of winning big are infinitesimal. The odds of lottery privatization succeeding might have been even steeper.
A spate of fiery car crashes this week reminds us that although vehicles are equipped with more safety devices than ever, driving too fast, driving under the influence of alcohol or simply driving safely, but in the wrong place at the wrong time, can be not just dangerous, but fatal....
Our roads and streets are like the weather – something we all have in common, something we can complain about and something we seem unable to fix....